It would be an understatement if I said that I was disappointed with the Ontario 2022 election results, and I’m not talking about the winning party – I’m talking about the turnout. All to say, it’s discouraging to see such low participation.

Elections Ontario reported that 4.6 million out of 10.7 million eligible voters cast a ballot in Thursday’s election.

That’s around 43 percent of eligible voters. Consequently, it’s not healthy for democracy.

Comparatively, the 2018 Ontario election results saw 57 percent voter turnout, the highest in over a decade.

So, what happened? There could be many reasons, from people are just done with it all after Covid, voting locations problems to early predictions affecting turnout. But who knows.

Voting Ease and Accessibility

To begin with, I’m not an expert on the Ontario election process; this is just my opinion. I have not been diligent in past elections; if I said otherwise, I would be lying. As a citizen, I believe ease and accessibility have much to do with the Ontario 2022 election results. If I could have voted from home on my phone, I would have voted in every election. Not to mention, from my experience, the voting method is archaic. I’ve heard of these Dominion machines – I’ve never seen one, and I’ve been of legal voting age since 1998.

When I cast my ballot in the Ontario election on June 2nd, I made my choice via a sharpie on a piece of card stock paper and put it in a cardboard box as I have done in every election. But as soon as I did this, I thought about how my vote might not be accounted for correctly. Would that cardboard box make it to the counter system? What about human error? And how do I know that someone won’t add ballots for those who didn’t show up? More importantly, I can’t see that my vote was counted accurately or at all.

All I see are vulnerabilities.

What if you could securely vote from your phone at home? What if you could continue to vote in person or in a new way – via trusted credentials that live in your digital wallet? Even if people are “done” with politics. If people could take 2 minutes and vote from their phones, I believe more would be inclined to vote. And thus increasing the turnout.

Future Possibilities

You Already Have a Digital Wallet, so let’s imagine a scenario where citizens could vote accurately AND know that hackers working for the opposition (or Russia!) aren’t taking over the election.

To illustrate, imagine that Bubba’s Wallet is the trusted digital wallet provider. We trust Bubba’s Wallet because it’s been through the rigorous vetting processes to be a trusted provider.

There should be a variety of trusted digital wallet providers to maintain a healthy market.

The election authority could issue citizens (e.g. who opt in) verifiable credentials stored in Bubba’s Wallet. That credential would act as verification when voting, and the system would make sure they only vote once. Users could load up a website, and their wallet would make sure it was the election authority (e.g. Elections Ontario for the Ontario provincial election).

The election authority could also create a voting app compatible with Bubba’s Wallet and other trusted wallet providers. Similarly, it would be like logging on to a banking app or using Apple or Google pay via Biometrics.

Finally, to safeguard the system from fraud, the election authority must make it so that users cannot log on or access the app unless they have a verified voting credential. Because the verifiable credentials are stored and shared via Distributed Ledger Technology, and are not stored in a centralized manner by the Issuer (e.g. Elections Ontario), they are inaccessible to hackers.

Increasing Voter Participation

If the four scenarios described above were in place today, citizens would be able to log into the Elections app on voting day and cast their vote for the candidate in their riding, regardless of their location. They would also be able to see instantly that their vote was accepted and that their vote was counted accurately.

Technology exists to make this happen, but we need the government and the general public to adopt the technology. At any rate, I understand that would be a considerable undertaking, given the current trust levels among the relevant parties.

Digital ID can increase voter participation and improve democracy.

At any rate, it’s something to consider.

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